Love Really Is Like A Drug

Stony Brook University has discovered evidence in the brain that proves that breaking up is hard to do. Specifically, professor of social and health psychology, Arthur Aron, Ph.D. and former graduate students, Greg Strong and Debra Mashek observed participants that have suffered recent break-ups and discovered that particular parts of the brain associated with motivation, reward and addiction are active during this period of heartache.

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study 15 college-age heterosexual men and women that had suffered recent rejection. Each subject reported feeling intensely in love with their ex-partner and they spent the majority of their time mulling over their loss and hoping their ex would return.

To study the neural activity, subjects were shown a photograph of their former partner. Following this, participants were asked to complete a simple math exercise to deter any romantic thoughts. Subsequently, they were given a photograph of a familiar "neutral" person to view.

The study revealed that images of former partners activated specific areas of the brain:
the ventral tegmental area in the mid-brain, which controls motivation and reward and is known to be involved in feelings of romantic love, the nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex, which are associated with craving and addiction, specifically the dopaminergic reward system evident in cocaine addiction, and the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate, which are associated with physical pain and distress.
These brain areas were more activate when viewing photos of ex-partners in comparison to photos of neutral persons.

Accordingly, the study of individual brain images shows that those who are still in love when rejected are not simply experiencing a specific emotion; rather they possess a passion that is goal-oriented and motivated. These brain images depict similarities between brain activity associated with romantic rejection and cocaine craving.

In addition, “this study also helps to explain ‘why feelings and behaviors related to romantic rejection are difficult to control’ and why extreme behaviors associated with romantic rejection such as stalking, homicide, suicide, and clinical depression occur in cultures all over the world.” It demonstrates a need for further investigation to understand the way in which our brains process rejection in order to treat such harmful behaviors.

Although it appears that love really is like a drug, it is not clear whether being in love is an addiction; however Dr. Aron declares that this type of research could expose useful techniques for those in recovery.

Fortunately, this research revealed that time really does heal as with the passage of time; the right ventral putamen/pallidum area of the brain that is associated with attachment becomes less and less activated over time when participants observe photographs of their former partners.

Anguish of Romantic Rejection May Be Linked to Stimulation of Areas of Brain Related to Motivation, Reward and Addiction


Binge Drinking Teens At Risk of Osteoporosis Later in Life

According to a recent study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, teens that binge drink may be putting themselves at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life. Researchers at Loyola University Health System have discovered this possibility when from long-term changes to hundreds of genes involved in bone formation in rats.
"Lifestyle-related damage done to the skeleton during young adulthood may have repercussions lasting decades," bone biologist John Callaci, PhD, and colleagues wrote.

Callaci cautioned that data from animals don't directly translate to people. "But the findings certainly suggest that this could be a problem with humans," he added.
As we age, we naturally lose bone mass. Adolescence and young adulthood is a crucial period of bone mass development, therefore binge drinking or anything that inhibit this process creates a risk of osteoporosis or fractures as we age.

How did the study define binge drinking? Females that consume at least four drinks while males that consume at least five drinks per occasion are considered to be binge drinkers. Those that may drink 10 to 15 alcoholic beverages per occasion would be considered heavy binge drinkers.

Generally, binge drinking starts around age 13, peaks somewhere between 18 and 22 and gradually decreases. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration affirm that 36% of youth between the ages of 18 and 20 have report binge drinking at least in the past 30 days.
A 2008 study by Callaci and colleagues found that adolescent rats exposed to alcohol in amounts comparable to that of binge drinkers had 15 percent less bone build-up than control rats exposed to saline solution.
Now their new research studies the effects of binge drinking on genes. The researchers injected rats with alcohol to ensure a blood alcohol level of 0.28. Some rats were injected with alcohol for 3 days in a row, while others were repeatedly injected for 3 consecutive days over a period of 4 weeks, and the remainder were injected with a placebo of saline solution.

Roughly 300 bone-related genes were disrupted in rats that were injected for 3 consecutive days while 180 bone-related genes were disrupted in those injected with alcohol for 3 consecutive days over 4 weeks.
In the affected genes, alcohol either increased or decreased the amount of associated RNA. (RNA serves as the template for making proteins, the building blocks of bones and other tissue.) This change in how genes are expressed disrupted molecular pathways responsible for normal bone metabolism and maintenance of bone mass.
Most alarming is the fact that the genes were still being expressed differently after 30 days of sobriety for the rats, which translates to roughly three years for a human.

Although, this discovery may not appear to be good news, a better understanding of how alcohol abuse can affect bone loss could help to create new medications that treat the problem to avoid future bone fractures and osteoporosis when prevention is inadequate.

Are Teen Binge Drinkers Risking Future Osteoporosis?



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